Meera and Bran are rescued, Sam takes a trip home, Arya leaves the Faceless Men, Tommen converts to the faith, Jamie leaves for the Riverlands and Walder Frey is back. It’s the calm before the storm; all the pieces have been set in place for the coming wars.
It would be easy to criticise this episode for having a slow pace and focusing too much on secondary characters, but it actually did a really fantastic job in showing character progression. Getting to see Sam’s family resulted in some good scenes, having Walder Frey back in the mix is a treat and all of Arya’s scenes were golden.
Last week’s episode delivered such a slug to the gut that many of us are still going to be reeling from the loss of Hodor. It didn’t help that we started right back with Meera and Bran fleeing from the wights this week either. Bran is still having visions, and we get to see flashes of Jamie killing the Mad King. This was really exciting. Getting glimpses in the history of Westeros has always been fascinating and I can only hope that this is a teaser for a full scene later on. Back in reality, having to watch Meera collapse from complete exhaustion was heart-breaking. She has really given everything for Bran’s mission. Just as all seemed lost, in rode a mysterious figure, bringing with it the biggest reveal of the episode. Benjen Stark is back, or some weird combination of un-dead Benjen/Coldhands. Nevertheless his disappearance has been a mystery since Series 1 and it was nice to finally get some closure.
Sam and Gilly take a stop at Horn Hill to see Sam’s family. Now, was this all just a plot devise for Sam to get his hands on some Valyrian Steel, or did it serve a purpose? For me, it did. We learn how there is still a denial about the white walker threat and a prejudice against wildings, both of which I imagine will come into play as the overall story progresses. It also tells us a lot about Sam. His choice highlights one of the major themes of the episode: that your real family is the one you choose.
The episode is titled ‘Blood of my Blood’, which is a reference to Dothraki bloodriders. A khal will choose which of their people become bloodriders and they become to them the blood of their blood. So when Sam chooses to keep Gilly with him over his real family, he is choosing who he feels he is closest to. It’s a big moment for him and there will be consequences. I can’t imagine Randyll Tarly will take the theft of his ancestral sword so lightly.
Over in Bravos, Arya watches the theatre production again. This time it shows their version of the purple wedding. Arya gets a kick out of watching Joffrey’s death being played out, yet is seemingly moved by Lady Crane’s portrayal of Cersei. Could it be that Arya is beginning to realise that all the vengeance in the realm has lasting effects, or is she simply feeling some sympathy for Lady Crane herself. Regardless she has a last minute change of heart and stops Lady Crane from drinking the poison.
The writing in these scenes was really great, particularly the conversation Arya had with Lady Crane. Arya was able to talk in detail about how Cersei would have really felt after losing Joffrey. This shows her growing sense of empathy but it also reflects how Arya felt after losing her own father, which was actually quite touching.
All in all it was about Arya returning to her identity. She has always been a Stark and could never truly be no one. Her picking up Needle was a great moment, and a massive turning point in her plotline. It’s going to be interesting to see how the showdown between her and the Waif plays out. Whatever happens, Arya’s storyline has a proper direction for the first time in awhile.
Tensions were rising in King’s Landing. Jamie showed up with an army to stop the High Sparrow, but was made to look ridiculous when the Sparrow brought out his newest convert. King Tommen. I would feel sorry for Tommen if he didn’t bring it on himself. It almost makes you miss Joffrey…almost.
The political manoeuvring of the Sparrow have always been interesting, but it’s beginning to fall flat, simply because we don’t have a clear motive for his actions. He is a very mysterious figure and it would be great to have his character fleshed out soon so that we may actually understand what he wants to gain from all this.
The only part of the episode that felt slightly awkward and out of place was Danny giving a rallying speech to her new army. Thematically it was there, and it was a good re-introduction for Drogon, but Danny’s speech felt pretty hollow. It certainly seemed to over glorify a Dothraki invasion. We’ve seen the Dothraki raid before in Series 1 and back then it was anything but glorious.
Overall this episode had some good turning points for multiple characters, but felt a little flat in other regards. It was nice to have some screen time for new and returning characters, and everything has been set up nicely. Even Bronn finally gets name dropped so we can hope to see him soon. With what will likely be some explosive events in the next few episodes, this was a welcome calm to get us ready. It might not blow you away, but it will never bore you.